New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tends to highlight the differences between himself and Michael Bloomberg any chance he gets. But on sustainability and climate change, Gotham’s current mayor has not only lauded his predecessor’s policies, he has built upon them. And so on Earth Day, Mayor de Blasio unveiled his update to Bloomberg’s PlaNYC—a wide-ranging blueprint aimed at cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Now, that plan has even more ambitious goals, a new focus, and a new name: One New York: The Plan for a Strong and Just City.
“PlaNYC looked at sustainability, looked at resiliency. These were crucial, crucial issues to address and it did it very well,” said de Blasio when unveiling OneNYC. “But we knew we needed to go farther.” He argued that the plan had to become broader to incorporate issues like inequality because “you can’t have environmental sustainability without economic sustainability.”
Courtesy NYC Mayor's Office
After calling for a minimum wage hike and pledging to bring 800,000 New Yorkers out of poverty by 2025, de Blasio turned to sustainability, where superlatives abounded: the city will send zero waste to landfills by 2030, cut greenhouses gasses by 80 percent by 2050, and have the cleanest air of any large American city by 2030.
Within the lengthy OneNYC plan, there are multiple proposals—many of which are already in progress—to move the city toward this idealistic future. On air quality and greenhouse gas emissions, specifically, the administration focuses much of its attention on mass-transit. By providing better transportation options in the outer boroughs, it believes car-free travel will become a more appealing option to more New Yorkers.
This year, the NYC DOT has plans to roll out three new Select Bus Service routes, which will be followed by five more in the following two years. The bike lane network will also be expanded 200 miles, 20 of which will be protected, over the next four years. And then there is de Blasio’s much talked about five-borough ferry service that is expected to face a host of logistical and operational challenges as it comes into service.
All of these plans were previously unveiled. New was de Blasio’s call for the MTA to study an expansion of the subway system along Utica Avenue, a particularly transit-poor corridor in Brooklyn. The mayor was upfront about how difficult it would be to see the extension through to fruition, given the current state of the MTA. “There is a reckoning that has to happen in terms of where we’re going with the MTA, and that’s going to involve the state, that’s going to involve us, that’s going to involve a lot of other partners in the region to make sense of it,” he said at the press conference.
On greenhouse gas emissions, the mayor wants to see an 80 percent reduction by 2050 over 2005 levels. This target—another idealistic figure—was announced last fall. De Blasio said it can be achieved by drastically reducing energy usage in buildings. This starts with the retrofitting of public buildings and boosting renewable energy production. According to the OneNYC plan, “For privately-owned buildings, the city will create a thriving market for energy efficiency and renewable energy investments and services.” On air quality, the plan calls for an acceleration in the retrofitting of oil boilers.
As for the “zero waste” goal, the city plans to ramp up curbside recycling and composting. The city is also exploring “waste audits” for large commercial buildings that would be similar to energy audits.
On resiliency, the city will continue implementing the first phase of a $3.7 billion coastal protection plan created during the Bloomberg years. While the city searches for funds to implement the entirety of the plan, it will continue with ongoing and planned capital and infrastructure projects including installing new bioswales, rain gardens, green roofs, and permeable pavers. OneNYC specifically mentions “The Dryline”—a landscaped berm and parkland for Manhattan’s East Side. The project, designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group and Starr Whitehouse, was awarded $335 million in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rebuild By Design competition.
The mayor said OneNYC is intended to be more of a rallying call for action than a collection of specific policy proposals. “We do not provide all those answers because we don’t have them all yet,” he said.